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2020 Year in Review

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Dear San Diego Chapter Members,

As 2020 draws to a close, I would like to thank you once again for your continued support of the Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter this year. It was an unusual year, and I hope that your membership in the San Diego Chapter helped provide a sense of normalcy and community.

One of the lessons we learned in 2020 was the importance of our professional community—our federal family. Many of us were unexpectedly cut off from our normal work routines as we shifted to a virtual work environment. When that happened, our Chapter’s goal shifted to providing members with information about what was happening in the State of the District webinars. We aimed to provide a “normal” slate of virtual events to provide a much-needed sense of community and continuity, as well as serving our members’ professional CLE needs. We also wanted to help strengthen our community by providing a signature three-part series on civility. I hope you agree that we achieved our goals in 2020.

Our success this year was only possible because so many members volunteered to organize and help with virtual events. The Board of Directors similarly did a great job this year behind the scenes to provide member services. And the Court stepped up in a big way, providing over 31 judicial speakers across 21 online events. At the end of the day, we had over 6,000 attendees at our online events this year. This reflects a strong interest in the services provided by the Chapter and encourages us to continue serving our legal community next year.

On a personal note, it has been an honor to serve as the Chapter President this year. I am grateful to the Board of Directors for their service, to the many volunteers that made this year a success, to the Chief Judge and entire federal court for their support, and most importantly to the members, whose support makes this Chapter possible. I look forward to seeing you all in 2021.


David P. Finn


FBA-San Diego Chapter

2020 Year in Review

The San Diego Chapter of the Federal Bar Association had another successful year in 2020 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Chapter President David P. Finn and its Board of Directors, the Chapter held a full schedule of 21 legal education events relating to federal practice, including several special events tailored to updates on the Court’s operations during the pandemic. These events aimed to provide the San Diego federal legal community with important information about Court operations during this time and provided a sense of continuity to the federal practitioner. The San Diego Chapter is incredibly grateful to the Court for all of its help and participation in these events.

On January 15, the San Diego Chapter kicked off its 2020 events with a brown bag lunch in the packed courtroom of Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg. Judge Berg, his law clerks, and his courtroom deputy provided insights into Judge Berg’s practices and chambers rules as he settled into his new role as a Magistrate Judge. Afterward, the audience had the opportunity to ask Judge Berg and his staff questions, where his highly-regarded civility was on display for all the audience to see.

On January 21, the FBA held its Sixth Annual Ethics, Competence, and Elimination of Bias All-Day MCLE Event at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP. The seminar consisted of six different panels, providing four sessions on legal ethics, one session about substance abuse prevention, and one session on elimination of bias in the workplace.

On February 6, the San Diego Chapter was proud to host the inaugural New Attorney Judicial Reception at the Carter Keep Courthouse. Over 50 new attorneys, law clerks, and judicial externs enjoyed food and beverages with over 10 members of the Court. The new attorneys were welcomed by Chief District Judge Larry A. Burns, Chapter President David P. Finn, Patricia Hollenbeck on behalf of the Inns of Court, Licia Vaughn on behalf of the Lawyer Representatives, and Jami Ferrara from the Criminal Justice Act Panel. Many of the new attorneys expressed their appreciation to the Court and the FBA for putting on the event.

After the Court suspended jury trials and other proceedings on March 17 due to the pandemic, the San Diego Chapter shifted gears and held its first virtual Zoom event on April 30, a brown bag event with San Diego’s then-newest U.S. Magistrate Judge, Allison H. Goddard. Judge Goddard graciously spent an hour giving over 100 FBA members her perspectives after several months on the bench. Her law clerks and courtroom deputy gave their viewpoints on best civil and criminal practices. Judge Goddard also addressed the Court’s new procedures and the Chief Judge Orders issued due to the COVID-19 emergency, and she was a fantastic panelist for the Chapter’s first virtual event.

On May 1, the San Diego Chapter held its first virtual State of the District on Zoom to address changing procedures during the COVID-19 emergency. The panel included District Judge Dana M. Sabraw, Presiding Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Mann, and Clerk of Court John Morrill. The event was moderated by Chapter President David Finn. The event was co-sponsored by the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, California Lawyers Association–Litigation Division, Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, Federal Bar Association–Los Angeles Chapter, Japanese American Bar Association, Pan Asian Lawyers of San Diego, San Diego Bankruptcy Forum, San Diego County Bar Association, and San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association. Over 880 people attended this webinar, a record attendance for any event hosted by the San Diego Chapter.

On May 29, the San Diego Chapter held a webinar about remote depositions. The webinar’s speakers included U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard, Avi Stadler of Esquire Solutions, and Rachel Jensen, Partner, Robbins Gellar Rudman & Dowd LLP. The panelists shared best practices for remote depositions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30. They then simulated a remote deposition, complete with objections and an appearance by Judge Goddard who magically traveled from the beach to the bench to rule on an objection. The panel concluded by answering questions from the Zoom audience. This webinar was attended by 118 people.

On June 17, the San Diego Chapter and the Southern District of California judicial leadership held the second State of the District on court operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists included Chief District Judge Larry A. Burns, Presiding Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Margaret M. Mann, and Clerk of Court John Morrill. The event was moderated by Chapter President David Finn. This webinar was attended by nearly 700 people.

On June 24, the San Diego Chapter held a brown bag event for 26 law students at the University of San Diego School of Law on Zoom. The panelists answered questions about clerking during the pandemic and offered career advice to the law students.

On July 21, the San Diego Chapter held a virtual brown bag event with District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. Judge Curiel discussed practice pointers for civil and criminal cases, his path to the federal bench, and his chambers rules and procedures. This webinar was attended by nearly 200 people.

The San Diego Chapter produced a webinar on August 5 demonstrating how the Court planned to conduct jury trials while observing social distancing. Spearheaded by District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia, the webinar included a mock jury trial incorporating each phase of trial: jurors entering the courthouse, jury selection in the jury lounge, transit to the courtroom, presentation of evidence with social distancing, and jury deliberation. Attendees were able to submit questions prior to and during the event. Over 600 people watched the webinar live. This webinar was recorded and has also been viewed over 300 times on the San Diego Chapter’s website. This webinar was one of the first of its kind in the country to address this important topic and received high praise from many FBA Chapters around the country.

On August 20, the San Diego Chapter co-hosted with the Lawyer Representatives a webinar for 119 attendees titled “The POWER Act: Promoting Pro Bono Legal Services to Survivors of Domestic Violence.” The webinar, graciously moderated by District Judge Cynthia A. Bashant, featured the following panelists: Dr. Ramona Probasco, Author of Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship; San Diego Superior Court Judge Katherine A. Bacal; Stephanie Baez, Supervising Attorney, San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program; and Jamie Beck, Founder of Free to Thrive.

Throughout the year, the FBA hosted a three-part webinar series on civility instead of its usual annual conference. Part I, Understanding and Incorporating Civility into Practice, was held on August 26. Panelists included David B. Casselman, a Mediator/Arbitrator with ADR Services Inc. and Writer/Producer of the American Board of Trial Advocates Civility Matters training video; Victor N. Pippins, Jr., Law Office of Victor Pippins; and Dr. Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, University of San Diego Professor of Psychology. The 139 attendees heard the panelists address how civility applies to nearly all aspects of the legal profession, the important role it should play in improving their practice, and the ethical and psychological factors underpinning civil and uncivil behavior. Part II of the series, Maintaining Civility Throughout Litigation, was held on October 21 and addressed how to be a zealous advocate while remaining civil throughout the life of a case. Panelists included former Chief District Court Judge Irma E. Gonzalez (Ret.), JAMS Mediator/Arbitrator; Randall E. Kay, Partner, Jones Day; and Patricia P. Hollenbeck, Partner, Duane Morris LLP. The panelists discussed effective and creative methods they have used to maintain this balance of civility and advocacy for 155 attendees. The third and final event, Part III: Promoting Civility in the Legal Profession, was held on December 8, 2020, and featured panelist Chief District Court Judge Dana M. Sabraw, Shireen Mathews, Partner, Jones Day, Wynter Deagle, Partner, Troutman Pepper, David Leshner, Criminal Chief, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Deke Falls, Chief Trial Attorney, Federal Defenders Inc.

Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes hosted a virtual brown bag event on October 1, where she discussed her long career as a Magistrate Judge, introduced her staff, and provided practice pointers for the 138 attendees.

The San Diego Chapter addressed remote mediations on October 28, and 74 attendees learned how to effectively negotiate and settle cases in this remote environment. Moderated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Chu, panelists included Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg; Abby B. Silverman, JAMS Arbitration & Mediation; Deborah Dixon, Dixon Diab & Chambers/Gomez Trial Attorneys; and Melissa Holmes, Senior Deputy Counsel, Office of County Counsel. The panelists discussed issues such as whether and how to have clients present, why practitioners should invest in the remote process, and how to resolve a dispute in a virtual setting.

As with all other events since March this year, the FBA virtually presented the 16th Annual Judith N. Keep Federal Civil Practice Seminar with two sessions on September 17 and September 24 with 719 and 543 attendees respectively. Part I included panels titled “Dealing with Expert Witnesses” and “Thoughts from the Court of Appeals.” Part II included panels titled “Magistrate Judges on Settlement and Discovery in the New Normal” and “Professionalism, New Rule 2.1, and Things that Drive Judges Crazy.” Ninth Circuit Judges McKeown, Lee, and Bumatay; Chief District Judge Burns; District Judges Sabraw, Battaglia, Bencivengo, Curiel and Bashant; and Magistrate Judges Major, Goddard, and Butcher all graciously served as panelists.

On November 10, the San Diego Chapter hosted its 2020 Supreme Court Case Review. All 274 attendees heard from esteemed educator, litigator, and legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who delivered an analysis of the October 2019–2020 Supreme Court term. In the webinar hosted on Zoom, Dean Chemerinsky discussed significant cases concerning abortion rights, civil rights litigation, COVID-19, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Electoral College, free exercise of religion, and presidential immunity from subpoenas. Dean Chemerinsky also previewed several upcoming cases from the October 2020 term and answered questions from webinar participants.

On November 12, the Court and the San Diego Chapter presented the Annual State of the District event. The ceremony was held as the Chapter’s first hybrid event with both in-person participation and a virtual audience of nearly 200 people that viewed the event live. This year’s State of the District included reports from Chief District Judge Larry A. Burns, Presiding Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo, and Chief Bankruptcy Judge Margaret M. Mann.

The Hon. David H. Bartick Award for Civility and Professionalism was also presented at the State of the District event. Long before he became a beloved U.S. Magistrate Judge, David Bartick epitomized civility and professionalism. As a prominent criminal defense attorney, he captivated juries and judges alike with his courtroom skill. But what really set him apart was his courtesy, warmth, and integrity. He was a lawyer that made us proud of lawyers. And he was the kind of judge that all judges aspire to be. The Court honors Judge Bartick’s legacy with this award on an annual basis. Each of these recipients followed in his footsteps, exemplifying civility and professionalism in the practice of law.

The 2020 Bartick Award was presented to Charles Halligan Adair, who has practiced law in San Diego since 1972, specializing in criminal defense. Mr. Adair represents clients in both state and federal court. He is described as “the consummate gentleman,” someone who is “unfailingly polite and unassuming,” and “Chesterfieldian” in his manner and dealings. At the same time, he is credited for his devotion to his clients and his tireless effort to preserve the rights guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment. Over nearly 50 years in active practice, Charlie has been recognized for his courtesy, civility, and implicit goodness. He epitomizes the important traits that the Bartick Award represents.

This year carries a regrettable distinction. It marks the passing of two exemplary attorneys who were revered by their colleagues, their opponents, and the judges in front of whom they practiced. The Court thus found it fitting to posthumously honor both Bruce C. Smith and Peter C. Mazza with the Bartick Award. Their untimely deaths shocked the federal legal community, and they are deeply missed. Each was a dedicated public servant who over his career demonstrated the utmost civility and professionalism.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce C. Smith was a master of tact and grace and is most remembered for his humor and style. He was jointly nominated by his long-time colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and by the counsel he most frequently opposed in court—a tribute to the universal respect and admiration Bruce enjoyed. He was a truly authentic individual, meticulously organized, and genuine in his passion for the law. While Bruce often opposed his opponents’ legal arguments and positions, he never let legal disagreements become personal or spill over into his attitude or conduct toward his opposing counsel. His legacy is one of fairness, honesty, and civility.

Peter J. Mazza most recently served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney, and he was well known for his unparalleled work ethic, humility, and kindness. One of his founding principles was community. He loved to practice in federal court because he believed that we are all part of a rich tapestry. While as practitioners we may oppose each other and represent competing interests, at bottom we are unified by our common purpose to seek justice and uphold the law. Peter lived his beliefs and was a leader of the federal community. He is remembered for always pushing himself and everyone around him to do and be the best.

The Court installed a permanent display in the lobby of the Carter Keep Courthouse. The display includes a remembrance of the Hon. David H. Bartick and lists the names of the recipients of the award given in his memory.


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